Stock Transportation

Province’s school bus provider Stock Transportation apologizes

Nova Scotia’s biggest school bus provider is in front of review board

National Express CEO Matt Ashley testifies at Stock Transportation’s public hearing in Halifax.   Ross Andersen

The senior executive of the parent company of Stock Transportation, Nova Scotia’s biggest school bus company, has apologized to the provincial regulator.

Matt Ashley, CEO of National Express, appeared before the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board Monday. The apology comes as Stock tries to keep its licences to run school buses, after breaking rules with its charter-bus operations.

“I’m sorry that this happened, clearly it’s no fun for you and it’s not the sort of thing anyone should have to worry about,” Ashley said during the hearing.

Stock Transportation provides and operates around 500 school buses for the Halifax Regional School Board, the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial and the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board.

Last year, the company was found to have committed eight violations, including asking drivers to work beyond legal work hours, falsifying daily log books and making unlicensed cross-country charters. The result led to Stock Transportation’s charter privileges being revoked.

Terri Lowe, head of Canadian operations for Stock Transportation, arrives for the public hearing.   Ross Andersen

‘Red flags’

Ashley repeatedly blamed the company’s former regional manager, Troy Phinney for problems at Stock Transportation.

“He should not be working in this industry based on his file,” said Ashley, adding that nobody knew about Phinney’s actions until he left Stock to work for a competitor.

Terri Lowe, who joined Stock Transportation last July, told the review board she discovered multiple “red flags” shortly after becoming chief operating officer. For example, she said there were four more unlicensed buses than what she had originally accounted for.

Whistleblower policy

Ashley said an employee hotline, operated by a third party, was accessible to drivers. However, the hotline, which Ashley said has been in place for 20 years, has only ever received two calls from Nova Scotia.

“What was lacking was the knowledge about the number and its anonymity,” said Lowe.

Lowe said the 1-800 number is now on pay stubs, posters and customer service doors and includes a direct number for the regional director.

The company wants to make it easier for drivers to speak up, she said.

The hearing is expected to continue Tuesday and Wednesday. The review board will ultimately make the decision of whether to further discipline Stock Transportation.

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